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SALT LAKE CITY — There were few surprises in the first round of the 3A playoffs with one exception. I don't know many people who follow Utah high school football that thought Bear River would go on the road and dominate Wasatch. The Wasps were supposed to be the team with the explosive offense but the Bears stunned everyone with a dominant 36-6 victory.
The fact that there were few upsets does set up some very compelling match ups in the 3A quarterfinals. Here is a breakdown of each game on Friday:
Morgan (7-4) at Spanish Fork (10-1), 6 p.m.
Spanish Fork survived a scare from Pine View to reach the 3A quarterfinals. The Dons have had an impressive season under first year head coach and former NFL lineman Kirk Chambers. Their only loss this season was on the road at Logan. They have racked up big numbers with their spread offense attack. Quarterback Jason Money has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1.973 yards and 20 touchdowns. His top targets are Cameron Money (43 rec., 814 yards, 10 TDs) and Colton Olsen (62 rec., 868 yards, 5 TDs). They have balance with a solid run game led by Braxton Argyle who has rushed for 1,150 yards and 15 touchdowns. Defensively they are led by Money and Olsen who have combined for 7 interceptions. Wyatt Groves and Logan Jensen have combined for 10 sacks.
Rutledge continued his impressive season on the ground and through the air. He carried the ball 16 times for 133 yards and three touchdowns an also passed for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns helping the Thunder roll past Payson 48-21. Kyle Zundel QB Bear River
Zundel came up big in the Bears upset of Wasatch. He carried the ball 26 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns in the 36-6 victory. Dakota Cox TE/LB Juan Diego
Cox came up big on both sides of the ball in the shutout victory over Grantsville. He caught a 30 yard touchdown pass and also had 17 tackles on defense to lead the Soaring Eagle into the quarterfinals. K.T. Tibbets WR/KR Morgan
Tibbets set the tone for the Trojans on the opening kickoff with a 90-yard return for a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 40 yards and a touchdown in a 30-0 win over Judge. Cameron Money WR Spanish Fork
Money was exactly that in the Dons first round playoff win over Pine View. He caught 7 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in the 26-21 victory.
Morgan is coming off a dominant first round performance against Judge, a game they won 30-0. They will rely on their double wing-T offense against the solid defense of Spanish Fork. Their numbers don't overwhelm you but they spread the ball out between several players. Jantzen Toomer leads the Trojans in rushing and receiving and will be the player they look to in this game. He has rushed for 620 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 476 yards and 6 touchdowns.
These two teams faced each other in last year's first round with Spanish Fork winning 35-20. That is sure to be on the minds of the Trojans as they seek revenge on Friday.
KSL Prediction: Spanish Fork 28 Morgan 14
Bear River (7-4) at Desert Hills (7-3), 5 p.m.
Bear River pulled off, arguably, the biggest upset of the first round of the playoffs. They were underdogs on the road against Wasatch yet they pounded the Wasps 36-6 to advance to the quarterfinals.
They play of quarterback Kyle Zundel has been the key to their success all season. He has rushed for 871 yards and 11 touchdowns while passing for 1,723 yards and 19 touchdowns. Jeramie Selman has also played a role in their power run game rushing for 449 yards and 7 touchdowns. Zundel has reliable targets in the pass game. Garrett Fronk has caught 22 passes for 444 yards and 8 touchdowns, Colton Jensen has 36 receptions for 707 yards and 6 scores and Wade Miller has caught 23 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. The Bears are led on defense by Broc HIll and McKade Mitton who have combined for 12.5 sacks.
The Bears face a much different challenge this week against Desert Hills. The Thunder reached the 3A state championship game last year and are in position to do it again. They avenged their loss to Hurricane in that championship game with a thrilling, three overtime victory to earn the No. 1 seed in Region 9. Ty Rutledge is a 3A MVP candidate at quarterback for Desert Hills. He has passed for 1,693 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is also the teams leading rusher with 1,024 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bridger Cowdin has carried the ball 121 times for 725 yards and 8 touchdowns. Josh Anderson and Jordan Hokanson have been the top targets for Rutledge in the pass game. They have combined for 12 touchdowns. Defensively the Thunder are lead by Ben Highland who has 6.5 sacks.
Bear River is a confident group after their big win over Wasatch but a long trip south to take on a team like Desert Hills is a completely different challenge. The Thunder have not lost at home this season and have lost just twice at home in the last two years. Those losses were to Syracuse and Hurricane.
KSL Prediction: Desert Hills 35 Bear River 31
Hurricane (9-1) at Juan Diego (11-0), 5 p.m.
This is the 3A playoff matchup we've all been waiting for. We just didn't think it would be in the quarterfinals.
Who can forget those epic championship games, three years in a row, that went down to the last play. It feels like we may get another classic just two weeks earlier than we thought.
Defending champion Hurricane saw their 20-game winning streak come to an end in week 9 after a triple overtime loss to Desert Hills. The loss dropped them into the No. 2 seed in Region 9 setting up this quarterfinal matchup. It's not secret what the Tigers do on offense. They will run the ball. Their one-two punch of Adam Thompson and Jared Edwards has combined for 1,688 yards and 33 touchdowns. The defense has allowed just 18 points per game which is impressive considering the high scoring offenses they faced each week in Region 9.
The Soaring Eagle are enjoying another undefeated regular season. It's also no secret what Juan Diego will do. They also run the ball a lot using their flex-bone offense. Chase Williams and Jesse Springer have combined for 1,686 yards and 23 touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Markosian has also contributed to the run game and has shown the ability to throw the ball well when called upon. He averages 20 yards per completion. Juan Diego has been dominant once again on defense. Cincinnati commit Dakota Cox and Utah State commit Walter Kauhaahaa lead a defense that gives up just 7 points per game.
Whether it's a state championship game or quarterfinal playoff game this matchup is sure to give us some of the best high school football we've seen all year.
KSL Prediction: Juan Diego 13 Hurricane 10
Dixie (8-2) at Stansbury (11-0), 5 p.m.
This matchup may be overshadowed a bit by the Hurricane Juan Diego game but this could be just as good. This will feature the contrasting styles of Dixie's high scoring spread offense and Stansbury's triple option attack.
The Dixie Flyers average 39 points per game. Quarterback Blake Barney has had another huge year statistically. He has completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,367 yards and 24 touchdowns while throwing just 3 interceptions. He is also the teams leading rusher with 934 yards and 12 touchdowns. His top targets in the pass game are Drew Batchelor and Tanner Webster who have combined for 1,093 yards and 15 touchdowns.
No. 3 Stansbury went undefeated during the regular season in just their 4th year of existence. The Stallions average 37 points per game led by quarterback Chase Christiansen. He has rushed for 854 yards and 17 touchdowns but he doesn't do it alone. Jackson Clausing (558 yards, 7 TDs) and Jesse Horowitz (517 yards, 5 TDs) form a backfield that has been tough for opponents to stop. The Stallions may be even better on defense. They have held opponents to just 10 points per game. Colton May leads the defense with 114 tackles while Clausing also gets it done on defense with 71 tackles.
The key in this game for both teams may be the pass game. How well can Dixie throw the football? Will the Stansbury secondary be able to contain Barney and the Flyers passing attack? Stansbury already has a victory over a Region 9 team at home (Desert Hills). If they make it two they will reach the semifinals for the first time in school history.
KSL Prediction: Stansbury 21 Dixie 14